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Ice Energy gets warm reception from investors

Ice-based cooling technology promises to slash daytime power requirements for air conditioning units

The summer black outs that have dogged many major cities in recent years as demand for electricity from air conditioning units outstrips supply could soon become a thing of the past, thanks to a new energy saving technology designed to ensure cooling systems draw the bulk of their power overnight.

Hybrid air conditioning firm Ice Energy has scooped $33m (£20m) in series B funding, along with up to $150m in project capital as it seeks to expand production of the new energy efficient cooling technology.

The start up sells an add-on to air conditioning units that creates ice overnight and then uses it to augment cooling systems during the day.

Gary Kaiser, vice president of strategy and business development at the company, said that using energy to cool water overnight rather than during the day meant the technology can reduce the peak time energy consumption of an air conditioning unit by 95 per cent, helping utilities to regulate their energy demand.

"We're drawing on stored capacity to provide the same or better cooling using only five per cent of the energy," he explained.

Kaiser, who likens the unit to a water battery, said the company is negotiating about 15 contracts with utilities that may install the units on commercial customer sites to help regulate energy consumption throughout the day.

The ideal model would see utilities install the equipment free of charge on customers' roofs, reaping the reward through savings in demand-side management.

Some financing will be available for utilities, thanks to the $150m in project funding the company has raised.

"It costs about the same as installing a commercial rooftop unit today," said Kaiser, adding that the unit is compatible with a range of rooftop air conditioning units in the four to 20 tonne range.

"The cost of equipment is slightly more than a rooftop unit and the installation cost is about the same," he continued. "The installation process is very similar to rooftop air conditioning. It's easier in one sense, because you're not cutting through the roof."

Most sales to date have been to individual customers that have then negotiated rebates with their utilities. The company hopes to ramp up production through contract manufacturing next year as it begins fulfilling contracts directly with energy firms.

The funding round was led by Energy Capital Partners, and original investor Second Avenue Partners also increased their investment in the firm.

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